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Putin warns of Ukraine 'civil war'

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that Ukraine is "on the verge of civil war", speaking to German Chancellor Angela Merkel after Ukrainian armed forces retook control of a military air base in the east of the country, part of an action the White House described as a "measured" response to an "untenable" situation after pro-Russian separatists seized control of buildings and other facilities in at least nine cities. (Apr 16, '14)

Hundreds missing as Korean ferry sinks

More than 300 people are still missing as rescue efforts continue after a ferry sank off South Korea on Wednesday morning, according to the country's coastguard. The boat, which was carrying mostly children and teachers on a trip to Jeju island, had 477 people on board, of whom 164 were confirmed rescued. Two people were confirmed dead after the ferry capsized in apparently calm conditions off South Korea's southwest coast. (Apr 16, '14)

China tightens case against Zhou
Media reports in China suggest that President Xi Jinping's administration is bolstering its case against Zhou Yongkang, the once-powerful security czar, according to analysts. Two officials from the once-powerful leader's days as the party chief in Sichuan and China's largest oil company, headed by Zhou in the 1990s, are be investigated for "serious violations of discipline", the reports said. (Apr 16, '14)

Asia bucks military spending decline
Factors including China's military modernization, India-Pakistan rivalry and America's "Pacific pivot" all combined to help Asia raise military spending in 2013. The US weapons industry appears to be the main beneficiary, and continuing tensions over North Korea's nuclear program and territorial disputes suggest the upward trajectory is unlikely to slow anytime soon. - John Feffer (Apr 15, '14)

Breaking bad in
southern NATOstan

Joie de vivre and fine wines won out as the Roving Eye and Roving Son spurned NATO's anti-Russian paranoia in Brussels in favor of breaking out to Provence. The road passed through towns strong in culture and artisan delights yet paved with malaise, revealing why - at a time China and Russia are forging ahead with mega-deals - locals in NATO's southern territory view its economic march with Van Goghian apprehension.
- Pepe Escobar (Apr 15, '14)

US veterans promote 'right to heal'

Recent shootings of soldiers at Fort Hood and other US military bases and rising suicide rates among American troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are inexorably linked to the wars. Now, veterans are holding the US government accountable for innocent victims on all sides of the fighting. - Phyllis Bennis (Apr 15, '14)

High-level threat to China's party line
China's President Xi Jinping is channeling more powers into secretive leading groups and commissions within the Chinese Communist Party that report directly to him. The increase in top-level bodies raises questions about a lack of transparency and goes against Premier Li Keqiang's pledge that the State Council would be streamlined. - Willy Lam (Apr 15, '14)

New China-India era no shoo-in for Modi
Indian prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's investor-friendly image, nurtured while overseeing a boom in Gujarat state, likely appeals greatly to Chinese firms frustrated by India's opaque regulations and labor laws. However, while a victory for Modi could usher in a new bilateral era when the country's voting ends mid-May, there's a chance that nationalism could sabotage that opportunity.
- Santosh Pai (Apr 15, '14)

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Assad's staying power on show
As Syrian President President Bashar al-Assad's forces take the upper hand and the rebellion against him is dominated by extremists, countries that hoped to sponsor Assad's demise can only step up support of the "increasingly rare" moderate factions. A defeat of Assad was to become a victory for political Islam - but as hopes of this fade enemies are more concerned about blowback. - Nicola Nasser (Apr 11, '14)

Ukraine facing replay of Moscow '93
YouTube is full of amateur footage showing all sorts of militarized units being moved towards the Ukrainian cities of Kharkov, Donetsk and Lugansk. Local people have tried to stop them, without success. This is all too reminiscent of Moscow in 1993, when the subsequent bloodbath was hidden from the public. Something very similar might happen soon in eastern Ukraine. (Apr 11, '14)

Philippines tests rule of law
The Philippines chose the right course in submitting its nearly 4,000-page memorial to an arbitration tribunal at The Hague arguing against China's nine-dash line and other aspects of Beijing's South China Sea claim. Now the international community must convince China that preserving the international rule of law is in its own best interests.
- Gregory Poling (Apr 11, '14)

Former Zhou aide Guo in graft probe
China's top prosecutor's office is carrying out a criminal investigation into Guo Yongxiang, a former vice governor of Sichuan province who was expelled from the Communist Party this week. Guo was for a time the secretary of Zhou Yongkang, the now retired head of nation's public security affairs. More than 300 people linked to Zhou have reportedly been taken into custody or questioned in the past four months, and assets worth as much US$14.5 billion seized. (Apr 11, '14)

Dust storms cloud Iran's future

Dust storms are normal in the more arid regions of the world, but what Iran is now experiencing verges on catastrophe, with Tehran obscured for 117 days of the past year. Solving the problem will require better water and land-management practices, and, above all, cooperation with Iranís neighbors, which face the same wind-borne disaster.
- David Michel (Apr 11, '14)

Time to end subcontinent's family feud
Anyone who thinks that Pakistan and India can never be at peace should look at the example of Britain and the United States. They spent a century as mortal enemies, yet once they decided to resolve their differences something like brotherhood quickly followed. The key was cultural similarities, which also exist on the subcontinent and are a way out of the present madness. - Arshad M Khan (Apr 11, '14)

In Andrew Jackson we should trust ...
It's time to give the seventh president of the US his due for abolishing central banking in 1836. Andrew Jackson's foresight and integrity began a golden era for Americans. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama is no Jackson. - Noureddine Krichene (Apr 11, '14)

New US reality: Empire beyond salvation
After eight months of wrangling to push talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority forward, US Secretary of State John Kerry has acknowledged the latest setback to be a "reality check" for the Palestinian peace process. But for the Americans, the last few years have been less a "reality check" around the globe, more the new reality itself. - Ramzy Baroud (Apr 7, '14)

The US-Russia
Ukrainian deal

The heart of the matter - obscured by a rainbow bridge of hysteria - is that neither Washington nor Moscow want Ukraine to become a festering wound. Moscow told Washington, officially, it has no intention of "invading" Ukraine. And Washington told Moscow that, for all the demented rhetoric, it does not want to expand NATO to either Ukraine or Georgia. What the European Union wants is neither here nor there. - Pepe Escobar (Apr 4, '14)

Doubts cloud China's
urbanization drive

Nearly a month after China unveiled its ambitious urbanization program, doubts persist about the impact and wisdom of moving more than 100 million rural residents to cities in the next seven years. - Michael Lelyveld

Financial stability
An energetic exchange at the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group focused on whether the US Federal Reserve should withdraw its "punchbowl". At issue was the importance - or otherwise - of "financial stability".
Doug Noland looks at the previous week's events each Monday.

China calibrates
distance from Russia

From the guarded wording of reports and the low-key media coverage as well as the body languages by both sides regarding the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's "working visit" to Beijing on Tuesday, China apparently showed reluctance to be drawn into Moscow's current tensions with the West over Ukraine. Interestingly, from Beijing Lavrov headed for Hanoi ...
- M K Bhadrakumar

[Re North Korea needs 'strategic shaping', Apr 8, '14] The alpha and omega of the Obama administration's approach relies less on diplomacy than on repeated military exercises with South Korea to "force" North Korea to bend to its goals.
Lou Vignates
   Go to Letters to the Editor

1. This is all too reminiscent of Moscow in 1993

2. Dust storms cloud Iran's future

3. The US-Russia Ukrainian deal

4. Assad's staying power on show

5. New US reality: An empire beyond salvation

6. Time to end the subcontinent's family feud

7. What would Jesus do to North Korea?

8. In Andrew Jackson we trust

9. Philippines tests rule of law

10. Former Zhou aide Guo in graft probe

(Apr 11-14, 2014)


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